I have made a complete reversal of my opinion about school vouchers.
In the 1970s and '80s when a number of private schools were started in Beaufort, they were seen as a criticism of the public school system. This is no longer true. Private schools should now be seen as allies of the public school system. Along with home-schooled children, they are educating 20 percent of our children at no cost to the public.
Our local private schools raise all of the money for purchase of property and buildings, buying furniture, equipment and supplies and paying the teachers and the monthly bills. They must pass fire inspections and Department of Social Services inspections. They offer an alternative to the public school programs, and with public spending at $10,000 per school-age child, even a small school, such as E.C. Montessori School, saves the county more than $300,000 a year, and a larger one, such as Beaufort Academy, saves well over $1 million.
As small businesses, they also pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy.
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The state has offered no road to chartering these schools, which have educated Beaufort county children for more than 40 years. Vouchers would not help low-income families (vouchers are a tax credit and many low-income families do not pay state income taxes), but they would put private education within reach for middle-class families and would help increase or stabilize enrollment for our local private schools.
Anne C. Pollitzer, founder
E.C. Montessori School
St. Helena Island